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What you need to know about meningococcal

What is it?

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcal bacteria). These bacteria are divided into 13 strains designated by letters such as A, B, C, W and Y.

Strains B and W are currently the most common strains causing disease in Victoria. Cases of strain C have decreased since the introduction of meningococcal C vaccine to the National Immunisation Program in 2003. Different strains of bacteria have been found to cause meningococcal disease in different countries.

Who is at risk?

Children aged less than 5 years, particularly infants aged less than 1 year, have the highest rate of B strain incidence. A lesser incidence is seen in late adolescence and early adulthood, predominantly strains W and Y.  People with a poor functioning spleen or who have had their spleen removed or who have a complement disorder should also have the meningococcal B vaccine.

How it spreads and what is are the symptoms?

Meningococcal disease is spread via coughing or coming into contact with saliva from affected person. The infection can develop quickly and can cause serious illness or death. Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are vital. Symptoms in infants and young children can include:

  • fever
  • refusing to feed
  • irritability, fretfulness
  • grunting or moaning
  • extreme tiredness or floppiness
  • dislike of being handled
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • turning away from light (photophobia)
  • drowsiness
  • convulsions (fits) or twitching
  • rash of red or purple pinprick spots or larger bruises.

How to prevent the infection

The Victorian State Government has announced funding for an immunisation program for school students aged 15 to 19 years against Meningococcal ACWY. We will administer the program to students in Year 10 in Bayside Secondary schools, or you can bring your student aged 15-19 along to any of our community immunisation sessions.

Immunisation against meningococcal strain ACWY is available for free in Victoria as part of the National Immunisation Program schedule for:

  • Children at 12 months – immunisation against meningococcal serogroup ACWY commencing for children turning 1 after the 1st July 2018

Immunisation against meningococcal strain B disease (Bexsero) is available on private prescription via your GP, or limited numbers are available via payments page only for around.

This vaccine is recommended for high risk groups, including:

  • Infants and young children, particularly those aged less than 2 years
  • Adolescents aged 15 to 19 years
  • ATSI children from 6 weeks of age (funded) and for a limited time for ATSI children up to age 2 via a catch up program.
  • Children and adults with medical conditions that place them at a high risk of meningococcal disease, such as a poor functioning or no spleen, or following a stem cell transplant
  • Laboratory personnel who frequently handle meningococcal bacteria

Get immunised

We offer vaccination against Meningococcal ACWY as part of our immunisation program. 

Find an immunisation session

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Meningococcal information in different languages

For information in different languages go to

Find out more

For more information about the disease visit Better Health Channel.